Friday, September 19, 2014

The Vanishing American Hobo

"The hobo is born of pride, having nothing to do with a community but with himself...." (Kerouac, 2978)  So states Jack Kerouac in The Vanishing American Hobo. Kerouac's essay is about the loss of Americans' personal freedoms and individuality.  The hobo is not a conformist, but an individual-someone who does not appear to be like the rest of society.  That difference can lie in their way of thinking, living, or spirituality.  He gives examples of people he considers hoboes like Beethoven, Einstein, Jesus, Buddha and many other well-known people.  These people were not hoboes in a traditional sense but in their ability to speak freely and think in ways that are typical of most people. 

The vanishing  hobo symbolizes a loss of individuality in society that has traded it for social protection.  The hobo becomes the marginalized of society and not respected for the contribution that he can make.  The desire for social protection and  conformity has demanded the increase in the need for police protection-  another threat to the hobo and his non-conformity.  Kerouac states several times in his essay about the police harassing the hobo. I wonder if the bum on skid row is the middle class American who has given up their freedom and individuality in exchange for the social protection of the police state.


  1. I thought about the poem and Kerouac's analogy that the Hobo is truly a free spirit. but the establishment (police) won't leave the hoboes of the world alone. I could imagine that Kerouac thinks of the hobo as the American pioneer.

  2. I agree with this post, as it notes a lot of things I myself took from this essay. The hobo represents the true American idea of freedom; no restraints over any aspect of your life. It really makes you wonder if the homeless of today embody Kerouac's vision. I think there is a huge difference between choosing to be homeless, and being struck with poverty and forced into it. It makes one wonder if both sides of the spectrum are truly free, or if they both view it as that, and if they both see a positive light in being homeless.